Why I Left the Church

I write this as I sip my third cup of coffee of the day. Coffee had nothing to do with my decision to leave the church, but it is a nice perk. I’ve discovered a love for coffee and its magical abilities to turn me into a productive member of society in the morning (I am not addicted, before anyone suggests such a thing. This cup is decaf. I just like the taste.)

As I drink my coffee, I am not being swallowed up by the flames of hell. The devil has not taken up residence in my heart. I have yet to be hit by a bus, and none of the other horrible things I was sure would happen to me once I left the church have happened. Life is good and I am at peace.

Leaving the church is not a decision I came to lightly or impulsively. It has been a long time coming. It comes after many sleepless nights, many tears, much time spent arguing with myself. There were so many things that led up to it. There were issues of doctrine that I tried to ignore, but continued to weigh on me. There were points of church history I tried to ignore or excuse away because I thought I was supposed to. The sketchy church financial issues irked me but I tried to trust in the Brethren- maybe that property in Florida really would help to build G-d’s kingdom! I bit my feminist tongue so much I thought I would have permanent scars, because this was right. This church was where I belonged. And whatever bothered me, whatever gnawed at me, whatever I just couldn’t excuse away, I told myself it didn’t really matter.

Eternal things matter. Since I first joined the church I was committed to staying because I wanted it for my future children. I saw a haven for families within the church and I wanted that for my future kids. I wanted an eternal marriage; I wanted a community that would nurture my family as it grew. I wanted a place to belong now and in years to come. And sometimes, I really did have that within the church.

And then came the letter (https://www.lds.org/church/news/church-leaders-counsel-members-after-supreme-court-same-sex-marriage-decision?lang=eng ) . I had a lot of thoughts about the letter, but the thought that sounded most strongly in my mind was “I cannot raise my children here.” This is not what I want to raise my children to believe is right. This is not what I want my children to believe about G-d. I want to raise children to be accepting of everyone, and to show love to all, including gay friends, family members, and themselves, even if they should happen to be gay (because yes, people are born gay, and I have no control over whether or not I have a gay child, and if I should have a gay child, I would love them and embrace them completely, no differently from how I would love and embrace any straight children I might have).

I wrestled with this as I sat in church, fulfilled my calling, read my scriptures, and did everything a good Mormon girl should. Maybe if I kept doing what I was supposed to, the confirmation that this was right would come. But it didn’t.

Two weeks after The Letter, a statement came out about Boy Scouts (http://www.mormonnewsroom.org/article/church-comments-on-boy-scouts-of-america-resolution-on-adult-leader-standards) . I’ve always had issues with the church’s relationship with the Boy Scouts so one would think I would be happy to see they were considering pulling away. And I would have been happy, if it was because the church recognized the implicit sexist messages that stem from lauding of Boy Scouts when girls do not have a comparable activity (activity days are not the same!), but because this rethinking was coming as a result of The Boy Scouts of America deciding to allow gay men to be Scout Leaders, I was definitely not happy. Instead, I was sad, hurt, confused, appalled, and frustrated. Could the Church, which so unabashedly adores the BSA, be ready to sever ties because they were going to (however reluctantly) allow an openly gay male to volunteer to lead a troop? Could a move towards inclusiveness by the BSA really be so offensive to the church? And could I continue to be a member of an organization that would find a move towards inclusiveness so offensive?

I tried to excuse it away, but I had grown so tired of excusing things away. I asked myself, “how many more excuses will I make? How many more things will I have to make peace with, when I know in my soul that they are not right? How many more times will I be ashamed of my church membership?” I could not answer and the thought sickened me.

There is blatant discrimination in the church. We can call it by whatever pretty names we want, but at the end of the day, it is discrimination. And I could not be a part of it any more.

I followed the advice of James 1:5 and prayed to know what to do, and felt true peace in my soul about walking away. So I did. I started attending another church, and living life on terms set by G-d and myself. It was terrifying and anxiety-provoking but also exhilarating and freeing. I came to know G-d in new, amazing, and profound ways. I fell in love with the scriptures. I learned to embrace my authentic self and take newfound comfort in knowing that G-d loves the authentic me.

I have not been hit by a bus. I have not crumbled to a million little pieces. In fact, I’m stronger than ever. I am happier than I knew I could be. I have no regrets about my seven years in the church, but I also have no regrets about walking away. The church isn’t for everyone, and it isn’t for everyone at every stage of their life. I still love and respect the church members I have come to know, and will forever be grateful to the church for the people it led me to, and the blessing the church truly was for me for this period of my life. The church was where I needed to be for a while, but now I am in a new place, and I believe it is where G-d wants me. All is well.

I will always love you

A pet peeve of mine is when people think they know what a song means but because they’ve never actually thought about the lyrics, they miss the entire point of the song. I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton (yes, it was originally done by Dolly. The Whitney Houston version is a cover, though it is the better of the two versions) is one song that this happens a lot with- people think it’s a romantic love song about someone’s undying love for their partner. Actually, it’s a break up song. Let’s look at the lyrics:

If I should stay


I would only be in your way


So I’ll go, but I know


I’ll think of you every step of the way



And I will always love you


I will always love you


You, my darling you, mm



Bittersweet memories


That is all I’m taking with me


So goodbye, please don’t cry


We both know I’m not what you, you need



And I will always love you


I will always love you….

Like I said, the Whitney version is the better version

This woman is singing about leaving someone she loves but knows is not right for her anymore. And that’s why I felt this song perfectly encapsulates how I am feeling as I write this post and make this announcement: I’m leaving the church.

This decision was a long time coming. It was not impulsive, I was not led astray, I did not spend too much time on some “apostate” website. The decision is mine and mine alone.

Through much prayer, thought, contemplation, review, and reflection I have come to the conclusion that the church is no longer the right place for me. I don’t want to get into the specific details of why this right now is for two reasons: 1. It’s not that kind of post. I’m not here to convince anyone else or try to bring others with me as a I go. 2. It’s not up for discussion. I love my followers dearly, but I know that if I were to post the specific reasons I have left, each one would be refuted, debated, and poked at. And I am just not interested in that. My reasons are my reasons and they are good enough for me. I may post a more detailed explanation at a later date, but that’s not this post.

The reason I’m writing this post is because I want to be clear about what’s going on. Some people know about this already, some people don’t, and I can’t keep track of who knows what, and I hate feeling like I’m living a double life. I’m not ashamed of having reached this decision and I see no reason to hide it. I blog to help others feel less alone. When I began to seriously think about leaving the church, I felt so alone, until I started connecting with others- some strangers I found online, some friends from years before I had lost touch with. This has given me so much strength and helped me in my decision and transition. So I wanted to post this so that others know, if you are having doubts, if you are thinking about leaving, if you are feeling like this is not the right place for you- you are not alone.

But back to the song.

I am not anti-Mormon. I have no regrets about the past seven years I have spent in the church. The church has shaped who I am in so many ways. It gave me a refuge during some very difficult times of my life. It gave me a place to belong. I found peace and love and acceptance within the church and I will forever be grateful for the role the church has had in my life.

But I have to walk away now. I can no longer remain in the church in good conscience. The church has changed and so have I and we no longer mesh. And that is okay. I feel so much peace about this decision, and have found joy as a result of taking steps in another direction. I know it is right for me at this time. I have not lost my faith. If anything, my faith is stronger than ever. I know in the depths of my soul that I have a Father in Heaven who loves me, who wants me to have joy, and continues to guide my path.

I believe that life is a journey, and different things fuel our journey at different times. The LDS faith fueled my journey for a part of my life, and now something else will. And that’s ok. It does not change the fact that I love G-d and I know He loves me, and it does not make Christ’s atonement any less valid for me.

I wanted to write this post so others who are struggling or at similar points of reflection would know they are not alone. I don’t want missionary visits, I don’t want to go on the temple prayer roll, I don’t want to become a project. I am not a lost sheep. I am doing what is right for me.

My hope is to continue blogging about my journey here at K Comes Through, which will be separate from Just Say Amen Already (JSAA will remain what it is now, but I don’t intend to post there anymore). If you do not want to follow me, that’s ok. But if you’d like to stick around and hear about my continuing adventures, I’d love to have some company as I figure this all out. I promise not to become an anti-Mormon or be bitter, hostile, or nasty towards the church. I cannot look back on my time in the church with anything but gratitude and love for what it has meant to me and all it has brought into my life. Because of all of this, I will always love it.

PS This has nothing to do with the NMB from the previous post, and at this point, neither do I 🙂

An Open Letter to the Non-Mormon Boy

Dear NMB,

You’re hot- we both know it. You are one of an extremely select group of men who actually pull off facial hair well. You’re tall and have great eyes. You have a great sense of humor but you’re also mature – a rare combination. You have a job and are stable but also like to have fun. Basically, you’re perfect. Except for one little thing: you’re a Non-Mormon Boy (NMB).

I have been conditioned to only date Mormon boys. A strong priesthood holder who keeps his covenants and will “take me to the temple”- this is supposed to be the epitome of hotness for me, as a Good Mormon Girl. And it’s always been my plan to follow through with marrying a Good Mormon Boy, preferably by my 21st birthday. But that 21st birthday came and went, and so did many more birthdays, and I’ve yet to find a Good Mormon Boy to marry. And celibacy is hard. And in my search for a Good Mormon Boy, I’ve also come to realize that a lot of Good Mormon Boys aren’t so good, and a lot of Non-Mormon Boys aren’t so bad.

And then there’s you, NMB. I like you, a lot. We click, in a way I haven’t clicked with most other men, Mormon or not. And you’ve been polite enough not to draw attention to the white lacey undershirt that peeks out when my shirt rides up, and you don’t raise an eyebrow when I tell you I have to be at church for four hours on Sunday. And you like me enough to ask me out for a drink this weekend. But as I consider saying yes, I can’t help expecting the ground to open up and swallow me whole for even entertaining the thought.

You might suggest that I’m getting ahead of myself here, since this would only be our first date. But you see, NMB, years of YSA wards have taught me that it is important to consider marriage potential immediately upon meeting someone of the opposite sex. I have been asked how many children I want and if I intend to work after marriage on more than one first date. So, this is how my brain works.

I hope you understand NMB that there will be no sex before marriage. Kissing, holding hands, cuddling, and other things that brush up but don’t quite cross the line, sure, but sex? No. This one’s important to me and I need you to understand that. It’s a personal choice I have made for myself (prior to becoming Mormon, actually, so I can proudly and adamantly say I haven’t been brainwashed. This is just what works for me). This might be hard for you, and I understand that. One way Mormons have found to deal with this is to get married after two months of dating, but as a NMB you might find that odd and rushed. And I would be with you on that (though I know many couples who got married very quickly and they’re adorable and going strong ten or more years on, so who am I to judge?).

And speaking of marriage (and if you’re going to get involved with a Mormon girl, be prepared to be speaking of marriage a lot), can I even let myself think about that? I’ve had the importance of a temple marriage drilled into me in none-too-subtle ways. Even considering straying from this ideal makes me feel like I’ve failed as a Mormon girl. “What temple are you being sealed at?” is a standard question asked of Mormon brides, and I fear the shame that would inevitably come were I to respond “Um, actually, we’re not going to the temple” and they respond with a disappointed, confused, and/or concerned “oh.” And even after that, what about kids- how will we raise them? What about when I’m sick and need a blessing? Who would I call? I believe in the priesthood, and I want it in my home. But I also want you, NMB.

“Don’t trade what you want for eternity for what you want now.” I know I’ll hear this one a lot. But what I want most of all in eternity is love. And if you, or some other Non-Mormon Boy, can provide that, and provide acceptance, friendship, and someone to walk through the tough times with, then why should I reject it and expect that a Mormon Boy would offer something superior? And I’m sure I’ll also be told that Mormon marriages and families are stronger, but there’s little data to back that claim up. My parents have a beautiful, strong marriage that’s coming up on thirty years, and neither of them are Mormon (and the fact that you are not Mormon, NMB, would be a big selling point for them). My siblings and I were not raised in the church and none of us are serial killers- we’re all fairly normal, productive adults. And the vast majority of good people in the world also came from Non-Mormon families. So this idea that Mormons hold a monopoly on good, strong, happy families and marriages is a bunch of malarkey. But I still can’t help wanting a big, happy, Mormon family of my own. You should know, NMB, I’m incredibly stubborn, and this might be a bigger cause for concern than the Mormon thing. You’ve been warned.

But I hope my stubbornness, neurosis, and Mormonness aren’t deal-breakers for you. Not just because I’ve now gone through all the trouble of imagining our potential children and planning our wedding (I think you’d look good with a calla lily boutonniere, don’t you? Just kidding. You don’t get a vote when it comes to the wedding.) But because I like you. I like that you challenge me and that you’re smart and that you understand that Subway is not an acceptable place to take a girl on a date (that’s a Mormon Dating Adventure story for another time). I like that you treat me with respect and compassion, and I like that you’re a good person, regardless of your religious beliefs. I like you enough to be brave and take a leap and try dating a Non-Mormon Boy.

So yes, NMB, I’m free for a drink on Saturday night. I’ll have a rum and coke. Hold the rum.

XO,

K

No.

tap tap…is this thing on?? Sorry for my long absence. I’m going to try to post more. Here’s to getting the thoughts out of my head and onto this page!

There’s this video from Mormon.org. It’s not new; it came out in September. It’s called “You Never Know How Much Good You Do”. 

I saw it when it first came out and I didn’t like it much, but then last weekend I had the missionaries over for dinner and as part of their “spiritual message” they showed it to me. Watching it again, I hated it.

The video is a little long, so I’ll give you a synopsis: Ms. Mormon (it’s unclear if she’s married) is all excited about having plans to meet up with her cousin later that night and have a fun night out while the cousin is in town on a layover. Then the kids cause trouble, then some lady shows up and asks Ms. Mormon to babysit her kid, then Ms. Mormon’s sister calls and asks her to come by for lunch, then she has to make dinner for another family that just had a baby, and that takes forever because she forgot to turn the oven on, so by the time she fixes dinner, delivers it and gets back home and is ready to go out with her cousin, her cousin says she has to board the plane and the plans are cancelled. Ms. Mormon is all depressed and then her son says a prayer and thanks G-d that he won the science fair, and there’s this sweet montage about how all the little things Ms. Mormon did that were a pain or burden and required a sacrifice from her made a big impact for others, and blessed their lives.

The missionaries’ explanation in showing this video was that I do a lot to serve in the church and to serve others, and while this may be difficult for me, they wanted to remind me that it makes a difference. And that’s sweet, and I appreciate the reminder, and it’s nice to be noticed, but that video ticks me off.

I’m a big believer in serving others, showing that Christ-like love, and taking care of each others, but I’ve learned a very important lesson over the past year: self-care matters.

It’s really great that Ms. Mormon (does she ever get a name? I didn’t catch it when I re-watched it, and if she doesn’t that brings up a whole other set of issues) is so kind and loving- she is clearly trying to practice Christ-like service for others. But if this video were really honest, there would be a part where Ms. Mormon has a breakdown (more than the little one that is shown – let’s be real here, ok?) or lashes out at someone, possibly herself. Or it would show that Ms. Mormon is struggling with a low sense of self worth, or maybe even depression, or something. Or at least something more than burying her face in her hands. And it should, because it is dang hard to take care of everyone else all the time. And it’s amazing when people take care of others, but you have to take care of yourself. You have to take care of your own needs.

So often in the church we talk about serving others, but rarely do we speak about serving yourself. And that is not healthy, and it often leads to frustration or bitterness in service.

The idea that you need to take care of your own needs is not revolutionary; I’m not saying anything that has never been said before. It’s the whole idea of putting your own oxygen mask on first (because if you put the mask on the kid sitting next to you before you put your own mask on , you might think you’re being nice and helpful but you’re going to pass out from lack of oxygen and then both you and the kid will be in trouble). But in the church that seems taboo- putting your own needs first is selfish. It’s not “Christ-like.” (Never mind that the scriptures tell us that Jesus withdrew from the crowds, and took time for himself and to be alone with G-d. See Luke 5:16). We are expected to give until we have nothing left to give, and saying no is seen as the shallow, weak, or a lack of faith. None of these things are true nor helpful.

Very recently, I contemplated leaving the church entirely. I was so burnt out. I was tired of having so much asked of me- and there really was a lot being asked (though I know there are many of whom much, much more is asked!). I said “I don’t want to do this anymore!” It only then occurred to me that “this” was not church; “this” was attending institute. I had been asked to go to institute because the institute program’s numbers were low, and because the teacher wanted someone there who would participate. But I get home very late from my very demanding job. And I already feel like I live in the church building. I needed to do something for me. But giving myself permission to do so felt like betraying G-d.

But G-d wants us to have joy (Nephi 2:25). Joy cannot be forced. For me joy wasn’t going to come from spending another night in the church, when my heart isn’t in it, and I’m exhausted and drained. Maybe some nights it would, but other nights joy would be found curling up on the couch, or going for a run, or rolling out my yoga mat, or just being a bit selfish.

No one has the right to dictate where I find joy. Joy is personal. And joy matters. In those spaces where I let myself take care of me, and embrace joy in its different forms, I feel a closeness to G-d I cannot describe, and in a way that fills me and allows me to go back and serve when I’m ready.

I know there are so many people in the church who are the real Ms. Mormon from the video. And it is true that the good you do matters, and blesses others, and that’s wonderful. But you have to take care of yourself- no one is going to do it for you, and it needs to be a priority. You have a right to bless yourself. You have a right to do good for yourself. You have a right to set and enforce personal boundaries. “No” is not a dirty word- it’s a beautiful, empowering word when used at the right times. And you have the right to use it, because you matter too.

What (Not) To Say

Disclaimer: This post talks about mental health issues. Please understand that this is an extremely sensitive topic for many people. Please be considerate with your comments.

Robin Williams’s death hit me hard. He had made me laugh throughout my entire life, and I cannot think of a better Disney side-kick than Genie. Williams was a brilliant actor, gifted comedian, and, from all I’ve heard, a wonderful human being. The fact that he took his own life makes his death all the more tragic and upsetting. For me it was a clear example that those who laugh the loudest, and bring so much joy to others are often the ones struggling the most inside. That message is something this goofy, highly inappropriate, silly, sarcastic, always smiling blogger knows all too well.

I’ve written before about my own struggles with depression. It isn’t easy for me to do so but I think it is important because too many people struggle in silence, thinking they are alone in their fight against this awful illness.

After learning the news of Robin Williams’s death and posting something about it on my blog, someone commented that it was “very selfish.” This comment made me realize how important it is to keep talking about depression and mental illness because it is so misunderstood and so highly stigmatized. I’m sure that the commenter had only the best intentions with her words, but they spoke volumes about how so many people just don’t get it, and how easy it is for people to say the wrong thing, and cause more hurt to people already struggling.

Unfortunately, many of the insensitive and hurtful comments about mental health I’ve heard have been spoken within the church and by its members. There are many reasons for this, and the problem certainly is not unique to the LDS culture. I don’t want to speculate about these reasons, for fear of seemingly placing blame. I would rather focus on trying to teach and hopefully working to effect change (have I mentioned that I’m a social worker?). I think people who say the wrong thing don’t intend to do so, but are just lacking understanding or knowledge about the right thing to say. With that in mind, and with my love of list-making, I’ve created two lists below.

List 1: What Not To Say To Someone With Depression

• “You need to pray harder/rely on the Lord/ lean on Jesus”
Whenever I’ve heard this in any trial I have ever had, I always want to say, in a voice dripping with sarcasm, “Wow, what a great idea! I never thought of that!” Not only is this suggestion unhelpful, it’s hurtful. One of the hardest things for me when I’ve struggled with depression is to hold onto faith when it seems my prayers are falling on deaf ears. To be told to pray harder or have greater faith seems to imply that I’m not doing enough or my faith is insufficient. In my experience, depression makes me feel like I am completely inadequate as a person, so hearing such comments only feeds that insecurity.

• “Get out of your comfort zone!”
This goes along with other overly simplified suggestions, as though depression or anxiety or other mental health concerns can be easily overcome by sheer willpower. One of the most important things to understand about mental health struggles is that they make even the most simple things seem impossible. Statements that belittle or brush off these struggles don’t help. Compassion and charity do.

“I was really depressed after my family member died/my divorce/I lost my job/other really sad event”
Please understand, I do not intend to undermine the very real and truly awful depression that often accompanies a major loss or life event. I understand this and have been through it myself. However, it is important to understand that there is a difference between a depression for a specific reason, and one that comes on for seemingly no reason. The latter is often so frustrating because there is no known culprit, nothing on which to place blame, and an increased sense of hopelessness. If you don’t understand what caused the depression to come on, it may seem hard to believe that it will ever get better. Beyond this, many people who experience depression without a clear impetus often feel undeserving of their struggle, or feel weak for struggling so much when there is nothing really “wrong”. It may be more helpful to say something like “I’ve been through depression myself” to express empathy, without qualifying it. Just showing your battle scars and expressing that you’re a survivor too can have a profound impact, even if you don’t give the full war story.

“Snap out of it”
No. Just no. This goes back to my first point- if the answer were so simple, don’t you think the person struggling would have already tried that?

“Let me know if you need anything!”
This is a lovely, well intended statement, and I don’t doubt that the majority of people I have heard it from would have followed through if given the opportunity, but when I have been lost in my own maze of depression, it is very difficult to reach out for help, or even think of what I would need. Even when this statement is sincere, it places the burden of asking for help on the one struggling. It is also important to understand that common symptoms of depression are feeling hopeless, helpless, and/or worthless. Someone struggling in this way is going to have a very difficult time asking another person for help.

List 2: What To Say To Someone With Depression

• “I made/did/got you [some simple, personal gesture]”
I’m not big on crying, but I was moved to tears when a friend randomly showed up on my doorstep with homemade chili. I was in the midst of a pretty awful depression and to know that someone had thought about me and cared about me was overwhelming (in the best way possible). And the chili was delicious. One of the worst things about depression is that it can make you feel invisible; many people who have struggled with this or other mental illnesses report feeling painfully alone and isolated, even when surrounded by others. Simple gestures that send the message “You are important to me” can significantly help to ease the pain.

• “I am praying for you”
This similarly sends the message that the person suffering matters. It also shows they are not forgotten, and that their struggle is being taken seriously. Also, I know that prayer works.

• “That’s awful/that sucks”
Depression is often an invisible illness. Receiving validation for your struggle can be so empowering! There is so little that can be said to fix it, but having the pain acknowledged helps to make it suck a little less.

• “Let’s go to the temple together/let’s watch a movie/let’s eat our weight in ice cream/Let’s do ______ together”
I read this quote recently: “I don’t need you to save me, I need you to stand by my side while I save myself.” I don’t know who originally said it but whoever did is brilliant. There isn’t (usually) a magic fix for depression or other mental illnesses, but being there with the person, sitting with them, and giving them a chance to not be alone can go a long way.

“Have you thought about seeing a therapist? That really helped me”
Too often, therapy is seen as something shameful, despite the incredibly beneficial effects it can have. Talking about therapy, showing respect for it and being open about your own experience (if applicable) can help someone who is struggling to feel less isolated, and give them strength and courage to seek out the help they need.

“I know this is awful for you, and I see how hard you’re trying”
Depression is freaking hard! It’s exhausting and miserable and it makes everything else in life so much harder. Acknowledging that someone is struggling and that you see how hard they are working to get through it, or even just to get through the day can help to give them the strength they need to keep going.

“I know G-d loves you”
When I have been in the midst of a depressive episode, I have struggled to feel G-d’s love or hold on to my faith. Reminders that I am loved and that I am His daughter have given me strength to hold on.

Nothing. Just listen while they do the talking.
Just being there does so much.

We all have our own struggles and our own trials, and we don’t always know how to help each other. But we are called upon to at least try. I hope these lists give others a bit of guidance to make that a little easier.

If you are struggling with depression, please do not give up hope. I promise it does get better and brighter days will come and you will be so glad you are around to see them. I know how awful depression is, but I also know it is possible to come out through the other side, and emerge stronger, tougher, and awesome-er. I know you can make it. Please don’t give up.

Author’s Note: This post is a reflection of my personal thoughts and feelings and is not to be taken as me acting in any sort of professional capacity.

Embracing Communication

I have long since gotten used to getting teased by my family for having converted to the church. So last week, when my mom said, in jest, “Don’t get yourself excommunicated!” as I ranted about something church-related, I brushed it off with a laugh. I’m a temple-recommend holding, garment wearing, scripture reading, Jesus loving, full tithe paying Mormon. Sure, I have a potty mouth and, yeah, ok, I may have been slacking as a visiting teacher for the past couple of months, but I still think I’m a pretty good Mormon. I found the idea that I might be excommunicated entirely laughable.

Until now. Now, I can hear my mother’s words in my head every day I make a new post at JSAA and the worry is very real as I write this. As of yet, I have not been threatened with excommunication. But I am a relatively prominent Mormon blogger[1], and I’m quite outspoken about my bones to pick with the church. Other church members who have expressed frustration and disapproval with the church have been threatened with “church discipline” a lot, as of late. And I cannot help but worry if I should be on the lookout for a letter from my own stake president.

Pardon me for saying so, but the very fact that I even have to worry about this because I dare to speak my mind is a load of bovine fecal matter.

I had planned to write a response to the controversy around the excommunication of Kate Kelly and John Dahlin when the story first broke but I did not have time (blame work). I had planned to say that while I do not support the Ordain Women movement (I’m really not familiar enough with Dahlin’s writings to make up my mind) I don’t agree with move to excommunicate them, or the other members who have similarly been threatened with the loss of their membership or “church discipline.” I don’t see how this is the appropriate response to people voicing opinions and beliefs differing from what is preached over the pulpit. But since then things have evolved and gotten even crazier and more intense, and this seems to reach far beyond Kelly and Dahlin.

I’ve never been a fan of being told what to do, or having my autonomy limited. It is this rebellious nature that drew me to the LDS church; I love the emphasis in the church doctrine on agency, free will, and making up one’s own mind. This doctrine seems to be in strange opposition to this move by the church to silence or condemn dissenting voices.

That’s what this really is, from my vantage point; a move to tell those speaking out and voicing their differing opinions to shut up, get in line, or get out.

This is a far cry from the message of “come, join with us…there is room for you here” that was touted in General Conference less than one year ago, a message so many of is who have struggle to find a sense of belonging in the church clung to and found renewed hope in.

 

The LDS Church is 14 million members strong; surely we cannot all be expected to share the same opinions. However, the message being sent with this recent wave of church discipline is “if you’re not with us, you’re against us,” which is simply unfair and untrue. We can have different viewpoints, and even rock the boat a little to get conversations going and address significant issues- issues that can and should be addressed- without it meaning we are apostates.

 

One of the defenses of the “church discipline” is that it is used to squelch those who would lead others astray. This is simply insulting. It implies that adult members are so feeble minded that they cannot think for themselves, and need protecting from the big, scary internet. Those daring to speak out should not have to be sent to a time out or face other “discipline.” This infantilizing of church members is worrisome not only in that it shows a low opinion of us, but also in that it contradicts the heavy emphasis on agency in our doctrine. The insistence on only one acceptable way of thought also screams of cultishness, which is also concerning from the perspective of someone who considers herself an intelligent person, and also from a public relations perspective.

 

I was first called an apostate after one of my earliest real-writing posts. Someone took issue with what I said and sent me a rather long email explaining why this made me an apostate and why she would no longer be following me. My response to this, and the many similar responses I have gotten since, is a simple “okay.” That is their choice, and I respect them for making it. I cannot imagine that there is someone standing next to you, pointing a gun at your head, forcing you to read this (I could be wrong, and if so, I’m sorry. Please blink twice and we’ll send help[2]). I write under the assumption that all reading this do so out of their own free will, just as I read the many blogs/books/articles I read of my own volition. The onus is on us to decide if we consider something faith-affirming or something that serves us to be reading. We are adults, with minds of our own. We do not need protecting from ideas that differ from ours.

 

I can (and do!) read things that differ from my own views. Doing so forces me to re-evaluate my opinions, often strengthening them. Hearing new perspectives causes me to re-examine mine. My values are strong enough that I can look at a different viewpoint without being threatened by it. It has been my experience in the church that we are always encouraged to hear and respect the opinions of others, even those we don’t agree with, and engage in open discussion about them. That is why this move to excommunicate and “discipline” members is so strange and confusing to me. This so unlike the church I have come to know and love. And I’m worried.

 

[1] Just let me have this one, ok, guys?

[2] I cannot actually see you to send help. Best of luck.

Not My Mother’s Day

I wrote previously about how I felt ostracized after the General Women’s Broadcast in late March. One of the reasons for this was the lauding of Mothers- not all mothers, mind you, but Mormon mothers. This lauding of Mormon Mommyhood is always present in the LDS culture, but it was particularly strong during the broadcast, and as Mother’s Day fast approaches, it is inescapable.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Mormon Mommies. I know many of them personally and others via blog-stalking, and I admire and appreciate them. But the idea that often propagates throughout Mormon culture is that Mormon mothers are superior to other kinds of mothers and other kinds of Mormons. As the daughter of a non-Mormon mother, I can promise you Mormon mamas are not necessarily superior to those of any other faith or culture. And as a Mormon woman who is not a mother, I am beyond frustrated with being patronized by those who are quick to point out that the greatest thing I will ever do in my life is bear and raise children.

I want to be a mother. Getting married and having babies sounds really wonderful to me (if any eligible bachelors are reading this and would like to help me achieve this goal, applications are currently being accepted). But the thing is, I’m currently not a mother. And I’m okay with that. As shocking as the church might find it, my life is actually fulfilling and wonderful even in my childless state.

To this, I will likely get responses such as “but you are a mother- you’re a nurturer!” and “Motherhood is more than having children.”

To which I say, no.

I don’t have children. I am not a mother. I am a woman, I am person, I am a Mormon, I am covert, I am a writer, I am a daughter, I am a sister, I am a friend, I am a therapist, I am a teacher, I am budding yogi, I am a volunteer, I am an advocate, I am a balaboosta. I am all of these things and I am proud of the titles I hold. I have worked hard to be proud of who I am and embrace the life I lead. It is not a perfect life but it a good, rich, and beautiful life and one I feel beyond blessed to live.

But then I come to church, and I feel forced to wear a label that does not fit me. I am not a mother, and I am perfectly fine with that. But the pitying eyes and reminders that “all women are mothers!” frustrate me. Why must I accept this label that does not fit my life as it currently is? ‘

Every year on Mother’s Day in my YSA ward (where none of us are mothers) the men of the Elder’s Quorum hand out flowers to the women and sometimes sing a special song. We are again reminded that we are all mothers because we are women, blessed with a magical ability to be natural nurtures.

The flowers and song are sweet but it feels a little too much like the “Participant” ribbon they give out at the Elementary School talent show, so no one feels left out, even if they didn’t win. Only now, we’re adults, and our contributions weren’t even considered. When we are reminded that no other job will ever compare to being a mother (and don’t get me started on the whole “is motherhood a job?” debate), and how motherhood is the most important work we will ever do, it undermines everything else we do and work for.

For those of us who are not mothers, we can (and do!) live full, meaningful lives. Our worth is not determined by the number of children who call us “Mom”. Our contribution to the world is still of significance and should not be belittled by the church we love and serve. However, each reminder of how “a woman’s most important work is to be a mother” causes me to sigh with frustration, as I wonder if I will ever truly find acceptance in the church.

The standard that the church holds women to of being wives, mothers and “nurturers” does not fit millions of Mormon women. Some are not married, some are not mothers, some are not nurtures, and some are none of the above. All are daughters of G-d. All deserve to be treated with dignity, respect, and acceptance.  

The church often tries to force the label of “nurturer” onto women, but the fact is that not all women are nurturers. The biological ability to bear children does not also give one the natural ability to care or endow us with a supernatural capacity to dispense love. I am reminded of this every day both in my work in the child welfare system where I have worked with so many mothers who have made it painfully clear that a uterus does not equate to a natural ability to nurture, and in my many interactions with women who have chosen not to have children, but to foster the natural abilities they do have to impact the world in profound ways.

Insisting we are all “nurturers” by virtue of our chromosomal make-up forces us to wear a label that may not fit, and demeans the wonderful other qualities women might possess and should be lauded for.

Personally, I am a very nurturing person. I kind of wish I wasn’t because it would make the point I’m trying to make here much stronger, but the truth is, I am very nurturing. I may not be nurturing my own children because I don’t have any, but I put this quality to use in other ways. That doesn’t make me a mother, and it shouldn’t warrant people telling me with pity-eyes how this is my version of the priesthood. It is a part of who I am. But it’s not the only part.

This Mother’s Day, before I head to my family’s home to spend the day with my amazing non-Mormon mother, I will go to church at my YSA ward. So, Elder’s Quorum, please feel free to skip the carnations this year. I appreciate the gesture, but I just don’t need it. I’m quite proud of my Non-Mommying life.